Conversation With Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey


Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I’m sure readers will love to learn more about you. Is there anything about you that will surprise people?

Michael: After high school, I applied to be a fighter pilot at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but was washed away because of a history of migraine headaches. They then thought I might have a mental problem. They didn’t want me in the cockpit of a multi-million dollar plane. Later, it turned out that migraine was not a mental problem but maybe I had a mental problem when I decided to become an entrepreneur!

Bonnie: It’s my foot on the famous barefoot wine label! We were looking for a high arched footprint and I realized that the end of my foot was exactly the same! So I sent Michael to the store for the biggest ink pad so he could find it and put my foot in it and put my foot on a piece of artist’s paper and thus my foot became the biggest wine label in the world!

Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, obstacles or challenges have played the most important role in your growth?

Michael: Ever since I was little, I have had to be very self-reliant and creative. I had to stick to it and believe that I would discover solutions. I made my own coasters, made my own toys, made my own castle, and had my own paper path. I have saved for years to buy a bike. But the most important thing in bringing me here was, in a word, “perseverance!”

In our business, we had a very competitive and controlled business with low capital. So we are forced to be rich. For example, we had no money for advertising, so we had to come up with a way to get the word out about our product. We realized that each store for sale in our store was surrounded by sponsors in the neighborhood who were supporting the right cause to do something positive around them. These fundraisers were for local reasons such as beach cleaning, a school-park for children, or the construction of a new library. We learned that by supporting them, we were giving their members social reasons to buy our products that became stronger than business reasons. We call it “worthy cause marketing”. It worked so well that even when we could finally carry commercial advertising, we stuck to “worthy reason marketing” because it was more effective! Also, we have been able to differentiate with hundreds of worthy factors across the country.

Bonnie: My older sister was a very young mother with three children. I helped make them bigger. But I was also very young. Even at 11 o’clock, I had to get on the plate. It was challenging and I was forced to take on the responsibilities that most people don’t fully realize until they are in their twenties or thirties. We used to hang out a lot when I was younger. I had to learn how to make new friends quickly in new schools in different parts of the country. Both of these lessons have helped me significantly in later life!

For example, when we started our business, I had to wear a lot of hats, including CFO, CPO and VP. We were pretty thin in those days but I knew I could handle it because I was accustomed to taking responsibility, multitasking and developing the soft skills I needed to help others get things done. .

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Michael: You need to prove to your people and all your stakeholders that you have the best interests at heart. You need to understand those interests and show through your activities that you are providing them with a vehicle and a path to their own success. For example, people work for many reasons, but the top four seem to be salaries – to pay bills; For recognition-self-respect; Time off – to enjoy their lives; And security – to give them confidence in the future. Each of these interests can be translated into compensation, recognition, personal time and benefits.

Bonnie: Leaders must have a clear plan, communicate it effectively, and involve their people in solving the problems needed to overcome obstacles. At Barefoot, we have practiced what we call “need-to-know” instead of “need-to-know”. That means we share our problems with our entire staff and ask them for ideas.

For example, at one time we had a great opportunity in a big supermarket, but they put us on the bottom shelf where no one could see. We were counter-clockwise because we had to sell or close a certain amount of products within a certain period of time – forever! How are we going to do that if they put us on the bottom shelf? We have asked our people. Someone said. “Well we’re barefoot, so we just have to walk!” Everyone laughed. But then one of our guys stood up and said, “You know, it’s not so crazy, maybe we can leave our footprints on the floor from the door where our products were on the bottom shelf. Customers will be looking down to see where the footprints went and discover our wine. That idea came from our 78-year-old receptionist. We have used his idea all over the country! Imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t asked him!

Adam: What are your top three tips for entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?


Expect 1 solution. Keep your eyes open!

2 Add strategic allies. Who is rich if rich?

3 Overkill on customer service. Remember where the money is coming from!


1 Practice empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

2 Stay steadfast. Ask another way, a different person, or a different day!

3 Show gratitude. Write a thank you note and be specific.

Adam: What is your best advice on team building, leadership and management?


Bonnie: They have to like you as a person. This means you have to show that you care about them. Soft skills are important for any leader to engage their team members seriously. Answer the question: How does achieving goals help your team members achieve their goals? Be sure to give them universal praise when they work in a productive way or solve a worrying problem.

Adam: The single best advice you’ve ever received?

Michael: My father once said to me, “Michael, make up your mind, do you want to make a statement, or do you want to make a deposit?”

Bonnie: My mother once told me, “Yes! You can do it! Just set your mind! ”

Adam: What should everyone do to move it forward?

Michael: Put extra energy into your people. Help them achieve their goals. If they leave you, stay in touch and ship the consultant as much as possible. Your experience can help them.

Bonnie: Remember, it doesn’t have to be the person you forwarded to who returned the favor. No energy is wasted under the sun. You will be rewarded. But maybe in different ways, from different people, on different days!

Adam: What is your hobby and how did they form you as a leader?

Michael: I’m an interested hiker. Sometimes I have to overcome several steep challenges on the trail. Sometimes the tail is uneven. Sometimes it’s really hot and I just want to sit in the shade. But I keep going because I love adventure and all the new things I get to see. Also, I’m moving away from the screen and phone to give my brain and soul a chance to reboot. And I know that this trip will help me with my mental and physical health and help me create creative solutions in my professional life.

Bonnie: I like organic gardening. It’s not just chemical-free fruits and vegetables, it’s not that they grow where I live, nor is it that it helps me become healthier and self-sufficient. As my mother used to say, “This is a sanity garden. Whatever your challenge, no matter where you go, when you come back, you will see progress in your garden. It’s a reminder that things are going in the right direction.

Adam: Do you want to share anything else?

Michael: The fuel that drives perseverance and perseverance is the assurance of your primary adapter. When you start to feel frustrated or disappointed, maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and make some calls to your happy customers. Ask them what they like about your product or service. You will be amazed at how their positive testimony will recharge your battery and give you the courage to overcome the next hurdle!

Bonnie: Develop an attitude and a method for managing problems. Find out who else will benefit if you succeed. Support them. See how a similar problem was solved in other industries. See what applies to your problem. And don’t forget to look at all your other issues. Put them on the table. Find the relationship between those problems. Remember, elegant solutions solve multiple problems!

Tasnimul Rafi
Tasnimul Rafi
Chief Executive Officer of Raw marketer, Online editor, Author

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